Most of us in the media expected there to be some kind of hangover for the Washington Capitals in the Eastern Conference Finals. After many years of trying, they finally defeated the Penguins in a playoff series and got back to the conference finals for the 1st time in 20 years. We neglected to entertain the possibility that instead of them just being happy to be their, that they would play like they had nothing to lose. That was certainly what the Tampa Bay Lightning ran into in game 1. A huge momentum change happened late in the 1st period. A Nikita Kucherov goal was negated because of a penalty and then Washington scored right before the end of the frame. We entered the 2nd with the Capitals up 2-0 instead of being locked in a 1-1 tie. The Bolts tried their damndest to make a game of it in the final period, but ultimately fell short in a 4-2 loss.
The Capitals knew they needed to get off to a good start to quiet a hostile crowd. They got on the scoreboard before the Lightning could record a shot on goal. Michal Kempny fired one towards the net and Vasilevskiy couldn’t see through a ton of bodies. Kempny’s 1st goal of the playoffs gave the Capitals the 1st lead of the series. The rest of the period certainly wasn’t their best of the postseason, but they finally got a golden opportunity in the closing moments. Steven Stamkos was held going in on somewhat of a breakaway and that put the Lightning on the power play. The Lightning couldn’t manage a shot on goal during that power play, but with 7 seconds remaining in the period it looked like everything changed. It looked like Nikita Kucherov tied the game up, but the goal was called off because of a too many men on the ice penalty. The momentum changed even more immediately after. On the ensuing faceoff after the penalty, Alex Ovechkin fired a rocket past Vasilevskiy to double the Washington lead heading to the 2nd.
Things didn’t start any better for the Lightning in the 2nd. Less than 3 minutes in it was a 3-0 game. Jay Beagle capitalized on a dirty play in front of the net to score his 2nd goal of the playoffs. It continued to go even more wrong after that. After a Kucherov penalty, Washington added another goal. Lars Eller was the one who got it past Vasilevskiy this time. That goal really deflated the Amalie Arena crowd and the Bolts went into the 3rd period down 4 goals.
The Lightning finally woke the crowd back up early in the 3rd. They cashed in on a power play opportunity with a Steven Stamkos goal that helped put a glimmer of hope for a comeback alive. Ondrej Palat really made a game of it when he cut the lead to 2 with just under 7 minutes remaining in the game.
Game 2 is just a few days away. The Bolts and Capitals will be back in action on Sunday night at Amalie Arena. The puck is scheduled to drop once again shortly after 8 pm. Pregame coverage begins an hour prior on our sister station News Radio 970 WFLA.
1. WSH - Kempny - (Kuznetsov, Carlson) - 7:28
2. WSH - PPG - Ovechkin - (Kuznetsov, Oshie) - 19:56
1. WSH - Beagle - (Connolly, Orlov) - 2:40
2. WSH - PPG - Eller - (Oshie, Ovechkin) - 6:42
1. TBL - PPG - Stamkos - (Kucherov, Hedman) - 3:45
2. TBL - Palat - (Johnson, Stralman) - 13:03
1. WSH - Niskanen - (Holding) - 17:34
2. TBL - Bench Minor - (Too Many Men On Ice) - 19:53
1. TBL - Kucherov - (Roughing) - 6:01
2. TBL - Kunitz - (Hooking) - 14:16
1. WSH - Chiasson - (Slashing) - 3:23
2. TBL - Kunitz - (Unsportsmanlike Conduct) - 4:09
3. WSH - Chiasson - (Roughing) - 8:59
SHOTS ON GOAL
Tampa Bay - 20